NHIS: Three months after, panel report gathers dust at Aso Rock
...Acting ES restores peace to troubled Scheme - Source
Three months after a probe panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to look into alleged infractions by suspended Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Prof Usman Yusuf, submitted its report, the president has failed to take any decision on the report.
The president had on Wednesday 31 October 2018 directed Prof. Usman to proceed on “administrative leave…with immediate effect,” following criminal accusations that had resulted in two weeks of protests by employees and near-collapse of activities at the Scheme headquarters in Abuja.
The president constituted seven-man committee to investigate him and submit its report within two weeks.
Mr. Ben Omogo, a Director of Administration in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation was deployed to oversee the affairs of the scheme in the interim.
The pronouncements followed continued protest by workers of the scheme, after the executive secretary refused to comply with the suspension placed on him by governing council of the scheme to allow for probe into his alleged criminal conducts at the organization.
The president action was made available to journalists by office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
While Omogo has been able to restore peace into the scheme, first by ensuring the divided employees work for common goal, he has ensured the fading confidence of enrolees and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are restored, a source who pleaded anonymity told this newspaper:
The source furthered: “Currently, there is no crisis at NHIS. Everyone is doing his bit. The Acting ES has shown experience and maturity in manners he handles affairs at the NHIS. But, the whole world expects the President to make a definite statement on the panel’s report.
“After 12 weeks or so, you should expect that report to have gathered dust on the President’s table. He was pushed to constitute the panel. We don’t expect him to be pushed again to take action on the panel’s report.”
Usman had been accused of mismanaging 919 million naira in 2017 and was subsequently suspended by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who set up a committee to probe him. The panel found him guilty and made recommendations accordingly.
But, president Buhari who was outside the country, receiving treatment at the time the developments unfolded, reinstated him shortly after returning to the country. The action was greeted with knocks from most Nigerians.
Governing Board of the scheme, through its chairperson, Dr Enyantu Ifenne, suspended the executive secretary on Thursday 18th October over alleged fraud, insurbonation, criminal breach of Procurement Act, self-aggrandizement, arbitrariness among other offences.
Banking on the NHIS Act which does not provide clear statement on such a punishment, Yusuf remained in office, claiming the council lacked powers to suspend him.
With the help of arm-wielding police officers and operatives of the Directorate of State Services, Yusuf kept defeating protesting workers outside the headquarters of the Scheme.
Chairman of the probe committee, Dr. Hassan Bukar, submitted the report to Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on Monday 24thDecember, 2018 in Abuja.
The panel was initially given two weeks by the president to conclude its assignment, but the job spanned over seven weeks before it was completed.
Mr Mustapha defended the delay while receiving the panel’s report. He said the panel needed “to address core issues on a lasting basis.”
He assured that “the report would be expeditiously processed for implementation,” and that the decision of government on the recommendations of the panel “will be made public at the appropriate time.”
He said government “regards the scheme as critical to its promise to Nigerians that they would enjoy qualitative and affordable healthcare. Government also regards healthcare delivery as a cardinal programme on which huge investments have been committed because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.”